7 ways to Celebrate the Summer Solstice
Today, June 21, is the summer solstice — the longest day of the year. After today, the days gradually get shorter until the winter solstice on December 21, when the cycle turns again. In my yoga community, many studios celebrate the day with a practice of 108 sun salutations. This practice, with its repetitive movements, becomes meditative and contemplative. That’s the idea behind it, but it’s not always like that.
So many sun salutations takes a toll on the body. Since yoga injuries are generally injuries of repetition, it isn’t always wise to put the body through so many vigorous movements. The chataranga dandasana alone can put the shoulders, wrists, and elbows at risk of injury. The forward bending and backbending puts strain on the spine, the low back, and the hamstrings.
Seven ways to celebrate the summer solstice
There are other ways to mark the summer solstice that don’t involve putting the body at risk of injury. Here are a few suggestions.
- Practice sun salutations by doing a smaller number, maybe a multiple of 108. In my gentle yoga classes this week, I led the class through three sun salutations. We practiced these slowly, with intention and mindfulness, and it was all my class needed.
- Practice modified sun salutations. Your sun sal doesn’t have to look picture-perfect. Sun sals can be done in a chair. They can be done with your hands on the wall. You can step through runner’s lunge and right into downdog, eliminating the chataranga/updog movements. The possibilities are endless. Again, if you practice with intention and mindfulness, it doesn’t matter what the sun sals look like.
- Go outside. Maybe today is a gorgeous summer day! Or maybe it’s not–maybe you have clouds and rain. Or excessive heat and dryness. It doesn’t matter, because today is the only summer solstice we’ll get in 2018. Practice living in the moment by appreciating the day just as it is, in this moment.
- Use all five senses to take in the day: touch, see, listen, smell, and taste the day. Feel the heat of the sun, the humidity, the breeze; listen to the birds, to children playing, to lawn mowers, to the construction crew down the block; see the colors: green grass, blue sky, yellow flowers, brown mud; breathe in and notice the smells of freshly cut grass, a charcoal grill, honeysuckle blooming; taste cool water and seasonal fruits like strawberries.
- Meditate using mala beads, which contain 108 beads. Here is a quick guide.
- Breathe. Take 108 deep breaths, counting down from 108 to zero.
- Practice a walking meditation. Walk slowly, more slowly that you’re used to. Set a timer for 36 minutes (a multiple of 108) and walk slowly and mindfully.
How do you celebrate the solstice?